France's Peterhansel hoping for Dakar Africa return


AREQUIPA, Jan. 12 -- Thirteen-time Dakar Rally champion Stephane Peterhansel expressed his hope on Saturday that the event will soon return to Africa, expressing nostalgia for the gruelling Sahara desert terrain.

The prestigious off-road race, whose original route was from Paris to Dakar, was shifted to South America in 2009 because of security concerns.

Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar seven times in a car and six times on a bike, said the event had lost some of its charm since its relocation.

"In Africa you started at one point and ended up at another. Here it's a bit more artificial because you start at one place and do loops. We arrive at a good dune site and we stay for two days," the 53-year-old Frenchman said during a rest day of the race's current edition in Peru.

"When you like adventure you want to cross a whole country. The biggest adventure I remember is when we started in Paris and ended up in Cape Town."

Peterhansel added: "When I was in Africa we never slept in a hotel. Sometimes a village would be set up in the middle of nowhere to sleep and do some repairs and then we continued the rally the next day."

However, Peterhansel stressed that if he had to pick a country to host the Dakar in South America, he would choose Peru because the dunes are the ones that most closely resemble the Sahara desert."

This year's event marks the first time the Dakar has been held in a single country since its inception in 1979.

Peterhansel, who is competing in an X-Raid Mini, is currently second in the overall standings at the race's midway point, almost 25 minutes behind Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah.

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